UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget climate change report draws criticism from dairy group

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Dairy UK said the dairy industry "cannot only be viewed through the lens of greenhouse gas emissions or land use."
Dairy UK said the dairy industry "cannot only be viewed through the lens of greenhouse gas emissions or land use."

Related tags Dairy Dairy uk GHG emissions diet

The UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) has presented the first ever detailed route map for a fully decarbonized nation.

But a part of the recommendations isn’t going down well with Dairy UK.

Under the UK Climate Change Act, the UK must reach Net Zero Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2050. The Act also requires the Government to set a new Carbon Budget every five years, following the advice of the Climate Change Committee. The Sixth Carbon Budget must be legislated by June 2021.

Last year, the UK became the first major economy to make Net Zero emissions law. In its new 1,000-page report, the CCC sets out the path to that goal over the next three decades, including the first ever detailed assessment of the changes that will result – and the key milestones that must be met.

The Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037) charts the decisive move to zero carbon for the UK. The CCC shows that polluting emissions must fall by almost 80% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels – a big step-up in ambition. Just 18 months ago this was the UK’s 2050 goal.

The Budget covers all aspects of climate change, but it’s on dietary changes that Dairy UK expressed ‘disappointment.’

The CCC recommends the implementation of policies to encourage consumers to shift towards healthier diets and reduce food waste, including “low-cost, low-regret actions to encourage a 20% shift away from all meat by 2030 rising to 35% by 2050, and 20% shift from dairy products by 2030.”

It also recommends an evidence-based strategy to establish options to successfully change behavior and demonstrate public sector leadership, encompassing information provision, skills support, and encouraging greater accountability of business through clear and robust metrics and mandatory reporting. These were also highlighted by the UK citizens’ assembly on climate change.

The report stated that if these measures are not enough to change consumption patterns, a second stage will need to look at stronger options, whether regulatory or pricing.

The CCC also stated measures are needed to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 and 60% by 2050 with the public sector taking a lead through measures such as target setting and effective product labeling. On food waste, the CCC said changes in dietary preferences and behavior change to lower meat and dairy consumption will also impact the composition of food waste collections.

Dairy UK reacted quickly to the report, with chief executive Dr Judith Bryans, who said, “We are strongly committed to tackling climate change and recognize the important work the Climate Change Committee is doing to this end. However, we are once again extremely disappointed that the role of dairy in nutrition, livelihoods, biodiversity and many more areas has been ignored. Dairy simply cannot only be viewed through the lens of greenhouse gas emissions or land use.”

Bryans said encouraging or enforcing a reduction in dairy consumption could leave many consumers struggling to replace the nutrients they get from dairy and paying higher food bills in the process.

“We surely do not want to see British consumers moving away from naturally nutrient rich and affordable foods towards taking supplements or to highly fortified and processed foods, and all without understanding fully the unintended consequences of such drastic dietary change.

“Through the Dairy Roadmap the dairy sector has for over a decade demonstrated its commitment to continuous environmental improvement, and its ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is no different.

“The UK dairy industry is one of the most sustainable in the world, accounting for only 2.8% of greenhouse gas emissions. We of course recognise that we as an industry have an impact, and over the last ten years we’ve worked hard to achieve a reduction of 24% in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Together, the UK dairy sector is coming together to determine the role the dairy can plan in delivering Net Zero whilst continuing to deliver benefits to health, livelihoods and communities across the UK.”

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